After She's Gone
by Amala Cataffi-Heinlein, SVA Board President
This is a harsh title for an article; it strikes terror into many of us to think “what will happen when Swamiji is gone?” Of course, she will never actually be gone, but there will come a time when she will leave her body. The Ashram Board wants to share our plans for this eventuality and also Swamiji’s personal thoughts and plans.
This is a very uncomfortable subject, which is why we are delving into it (such a yogic practice!). We have had very frank and open discussions with Swamiji on her vision for the Ashram, in the present, the future and beyond. You will all be pleased to know that she is planning to remain embodied to actively teach, support and foster our spiritual development for the foreseeable future, though how she does it will change over time. While she envisions herself teaching into her 80’s, she, along with the Board, is also focusing on the sustainability of her teachings. We are creating a succession plan.
Later this year, Swami Nirmalananda will unveil a program for those who wish to take vows. It does not require living at or near the Ashram and it will allow for those of us who are householders to participate. Her vision is clear: create a vowed order of yogis who choose to live by certain standards and maintain a certain level of practice. This will allow her to take the vowed community deeper, through teachings and practices that require this level of personal commitment.
We also recognize that there will be yogis who will want to live nearby. Some yogis may want to eventually become swamis in their own right. I can already see some who look like they are headed in that direction. It is so beautiful!
There is also the question of Ashram assets. We have the house in Downingtown, plus we will likely purchase an additional building to house our public programs and provide guest and resident housing. Our plan is to avoid building a large accumulation of material things. Instead, we will invest in the teachers that Swamiji is preparing for the next generation. This is about the sustainability of the teachings, not of the buildings. Eventually, there will be a published list of authorized teachers, which Swamiji will hand-select from the vowed community. These yogis will be authorized to succeed Swamiji and carry on the teachings.
When Swamiji has left her body, the Ashram’s material assets will be liquidated and the money will be donated to those authorized individuals who have set up their own non-profit organizations in order to carry the teachings forth. This is just as Swamiji herself has done, and Muktananda before her — it is perfection! This is a labor of HER love for us, and for her Guru, as it will be a labor of love and devotion for those who follow.
When the vowed order is ready to begin, you will be invited to consider your participation in whatever level works for you. I recommend that you dive deep and let it take you where it will. Whatever that is, it will be perfect! Om Namah Shivaya.
If you have questions about the succession plan or vowed order, click here for the FAQ.